"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion." ~ Thomas Jefferson
Lead By Example
One of the tactics that politicians use to deceive us is tricking us into believing that they are just like one of us. On the way home from work, I noticed one of those yard signs that homeowners often display in support of a candidate. Below the candidate's name was the phrase, "a working man working for you." It is enough to make one ponder why an honest working man would want to immerse himself in the dishonest realm of politics.
Whether it's at the local level or the office of the president, the ability to identify with the common folk certainly has some advantages at election time. One of the ugly little details about this present administration and its neocon brain trust is that very few of them have ever experienced the ugliness of combat, much less even donned a military uniform. This makes it a bit more difficult to make an appeal as "one of us" to those who are presently in the military. That's why when Dubya landed on the aircraft carrier, allegedly co-piloting a jet, it struck me as nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. Was this supposed to show all of us that he was just like the rest of them on the carrier? It is not that fighting in a war is anything to aspire to. But when it comes to war, it sure would be nice if those who start the war would be the ones who would lead the boys into battle.
It used to be that way once upon a time in continental Europe . Say what you want about Napoleon, but he was there at every campaign that he started. While certainly not in harm's way, the Emperor from Corsica got to witness first hand what the bloodshed of war was all about. Then there was Frederick the Great. The old Fritz was the King of Prussia from 1740 to 1786. Continuing in the tradition of his father, Frederick the Great continued to increase the size of the Prussian army. The means by which this was done was known as "universal" military service. If you were a male of noble birth, you were headed for the officers corps someday. Regiments were organized by the canton system, with mostly peasant soldiers and the landed aristocrats as their officers.
There is this minor detail about motivating the troops to fight. Conscripts tended to have rather high desertion rates no matter whose King's army you were in. Oftentimes, mercenary troops were used to level the playing field. But they could be costly, and wars were paid for in hard currency back in those days. Besides that, hired guns showed little loyalty to the Crown. Alliances between royalty of various lands were often short and fleeting. However, it was not unusual for princes to be in charge of an army. But Frederick the Great was known as a "soldier-king." He was close to battle in the Silesean Wars of the 1740s. So close, in fact, that his horse was killed beneath him and two generals next to him lost their lives. In the Seven Years' War, he led his forces in 16 battles. Apparently, troops would be willing to fight for a king who was willing to face an enemy just like they would have to.
Waging wars certainly isn't anything to brag about. Frederick the Great started the Seven Years' War by invading Saxony in 1757. Fearing an invasion into Prussia , he waged a preemptive strike. Does this sound familiar? The Seven Years' War had a devastating effect upon the German lands, especially Frederick's own Prussia. At age 51, Frederick the Great returned home from the Seven Years' War as a battle-worn, ornery old cuss. Most of those soldiers below him were younger than him, but were probably just as worn out from battle as he was. Wars that are fought on the home front, like the Seven Years' War, could put the local civilian population in the path of an enemy army. This is a lot different than the foreign entanglements of today. Next time some chickenhawk starts cheerleading for this country's military to invade a sovereign nation, go tell him to lead by example, like Frederick the Great did.